Lately I have been thinking a lot about what I really want out of life. I’ve been in my career for 6 years, and I was already burning out. When a friend of mine quit her job in September to take a 6 month break for herself to figure out where she wanted to go in life… I was sick with jealousy. I had been tired and frustrated. I felt out of control and trapped; spinning my wheels and running in place at the same time. I’m going to be working for the rest of my life, and I was already exhausted.
These past few months have really helped me start to identify what I really want out of life. Meaning… I have no idea what I want. I’d worked so hard to build this elusive idea of a “career”. I see it everywhere around me. People killing themselves to build up a career. But no matter what we do, how hard we push ourselves, a career should happen naturally… a series of jobs within an industry. You can have a “career” as a server.
So… what does make me happy?
Yet, even though my resume looks great, I wasn’t happy. Thinking back to the times I was happiest in life, I realized that the jobs I loved were ones that:
- Made me feel valued
- Where I was helping people
- Had great work life balance
- I wasn’t making as much money
The last one threw me for a bit of a loop, but it was true. The jobs where I have made more money were always higher stress positions, or for people paying more money because they had greater demands on my time. With my last position, I learned that there are some jobs where I simply wouldn’t keep it if I was making $1,000,000. For the longest time, I thought that making a healthy salary equated success… but I have even had my views on a “healthy” salary challenged. Living on a lot less makes you think a lot harder about what you really need to be happy.
More than that, however, I realized a key difference between the jobs where I was stressed and unhappy and those where I was happy is that I was happiest when I worked at jobs simply because I enjoyed them. I wasn’t thinking about how much I made, or how it fit into my career path, or how it looked on my resume. I thought about how I loved who I worked with, loved what I was doing. And on the days I didn’t, I clocked out, went home, and went on with my life. I wasn’t worrying about how losing one job could irreparably damage my career or become a black mark to my resume. I wasn’t worried about losing health insurance. I was learning, and living and loving life. It was a job, not a career. I was driven, had pride in my work, and enjoyed my life a hell of a lot more.
Separating myself from my “Career”
The fact is, if money was no object I would continue learning. I would change jobs when things weren’t working for me. I wouldn’t be afraid of losing a job because I knew that I would just move to the next one… the next thing. Something that would make ME happy. I have realized that the term “job” has somehow (at least in my mind) been turned into a bad thing. A job somehow became the lack of a career. But the truth is that a job is for the employee… and the career is for the employer. I’m done subscribing to the idea of the career. I’m subscribing to the idea that I can get a great job, and be a great employee. The career will just happen naturally as the progression of jobs happens.
If I won the lottery, I would continue my education and would take jobs to enjoy myself, where I felt I could make a difference. The odds are that I will never win the lottery, but living to make myself happy… that is absolutely something I can do.
A light in the darkness
As soon as I made this revelation I felt more free than I had in years. I am watching friends and family around me killing themselves for jobs, making themselves miserable trying to get ahead in a “career”. We don’t get this time back. Not a second of it. I, for one, am done wasting it on anything else than being my best self. Both at work, and in life.